The people that bought you Zuma and Le Petite Maison have created another shining example of how to design, build and operate a big restaurant name in Coya. And let’s not underestimate the importance and intelligence of the timing of this opening.
South American food is the hot volcano of the food world right now and Peruvian food specifically is the Magma that is ejaculating from this culinary volcano. Peruvian food is the new black and as Coya Dubai runs off to count their gold, I can see them throw callous, maniacal laughter over their shoulder as other restaurant groups and hotel groups stumble over themselves to bring in a Dragon Mart copy just to stay in touch.
And this is not a coincidence – They did it with Zuma back in 2009 when Japanese food was on fire. And then, when the world went crazy for provincial French food in 2011, La Petite Maison was there to satiate the cravings.
Considering how from a dream to inception, a restaurant launch can take at least 12 months, that vision is boarding on clairvoyant. Peruvian food is right in the now, it is the culinary hotspot that restaurateurs are all flocking to and it’s great to see an operator with his finger on the pulse.
But despite how obviously good they are at what they do, they must be careful of using a cookie cutter approach to restaurants – every restaurant has its own character and personality and the truly great restaurants are the ones whose personality shines the greatest. The holy trinity of Zuma, LPM and Coya seem to be the same personality, just with three different passports. Even the management seem to be on a rotational contract between the three places.
Now this takes nothing away from the experience – my partner and I thoroughly enjoyed ourselves and we had the good fortune to have the only waitress from Peru look after us. She was knowledgeable, friendly and had the nervous energy and excitement of someone who has only been in Dubai a few months. She said she was enjoying the experience but missed her family. I sympathized with her and then ordered what turned out to be an exceptional ceviche.
The Lubina Clasica, a sea bass ceviche arrived in tapas style at the table, delivered by our servers assistant. Yes, our server had an assistant. The ceviche was sharp, fresh, tangy with clean edges to the dish. It was everything it was supposed to be, and I wouldn’t expect anything less from the Coya team.
My partner was definitely enjoying herself; you can always tell because she talks non-stop, to anyone. And she on fire; asking everyone where they were from and then nodding knowingly, as if she had been aware of their place of birth all along. We both ordered the steak, as it was highly recommended by our server’s assistant’s assistant who came to deliver our wine.
My partner was upsold the Solomillo de Buey, which translates to the wagyu sirloin, chimichurri and tamarind salsa and I stuck with the poor man’s version, which was the Solomillo de Res, a beef fillet with crispy shallots and garlic. They arrived pre-sliced on a side plate, which is good, because if they were served on a regular plate, one would feel rather disappointed with the portioning. Especially as all the extras are also Al La Carte.
However, both dishes were well constructed; my beef had a delicate char to it that enhanced the texture, and the crispy shallots blended well with the medium rare meat. The Wagyu was full flavoured thanks to the Chimmichurri tanginess and punching power of their tamarind salsa. A good two punch combination. But at 328 dhs for the Wagyu, it had better be a knockout dish.
However, apparently it was. In fact, my partner was so impressed with her smidgen of beef that she actually took a quick respite from talking, and I watched with fascination as she let the flavours cascade across her palate, her face lit up with gratification.
I wasn’t as ecstatic however and I think that’s because I rarely exhibit such emotions, but more importantly because there was an expectation for Coya to be at the very best of their game, purely because of their reputation and I suppose it is a credit to them that they lived up to their reputation.
As I glanced around the dining room, I watched as the Coya team spent healthy amounts of time at each table, patiently explaining the menu to people un-familiar with this kind of cuisine. I watched as some tables had an alpha male host who confidently and loudly butchered the pronunciation of every dish on the menu and other tables’ submissively resign themselves to the suggestions of their waiter or waitress. All was how it was meant to be. The restaurant was full, and we had been told we had to be out by 9 pm for the second seating.
The clientele were the same groups you would find at Zuma. The well to do crowd that like to be seen and the less well to do crowd that immediately check in on facebook to show everyone where they are.
However, while Zuma has found the magical formula of being able to attract the female crowd, Coya might have to be satisfied with a more male dominated customer base, which will be drawn by the dramatic lighting and heavy décor. But, I was made to promise that I would include this in the review; the chairs did have a secret tray that slide out for ladies to put their handbags on, which delighted my partner and is obviously very female friendly. Well done, Coya; Girls love stuff like that.